"Entertaining slice of Restoration life"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 29/03/19

“Oranges and Ink”, written by Claire Louise Amias and currently running at the Tristan Bates Theatre, is a two woman show about the Restoration playwright Aphra Behn (played by Amias) and famous actress Nell Gywn (Sarah Lawrie). On the surface the two women were completely different with Catholic Behn living off her literary skill and talent for espionage, while Gywn, as mistress to King Charles II, was the “Protestant Whore”. However, both of them had to navigate the chilly political waters that would see Behn briefly arrested and Gywn fall in and out of royal favour. The two enjoyed a real-life friendship that was close enough for Behn to dedicate one of her plays to Gwyn.

Those who know a little about the late Restoration will appreciate the level of research that must have gone into the script. However, even those who have never come across this period, will enjoy learning more about it. Lawrie plays Gwyn with a nuance that belies the clichéd portrayal of her in history, while Amias shows us a woman who was intensely aware that she was one false move away from either the debtor’s prison (where she spent some time in her youth) or the Tower of London. Running at only an hour, this is an excellent play that will make you want to read more about both women.

Oranges and Ink is directed by Alex Pearson and involves music from the Lovekyn Consort (William Summers, Patricia Hammond and Stephen Carpenter).

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